By Eric Rynston-Lobel
The Wildcats are in Indianapolis preparing to take on the Michigan Wolverines for the third time this season. The ‘Cats were victorious in the first two matchups, but those two games were decided by a combined 14 points.
In order for Northwestern to defeat the Wolverines for the third time in 2020, here are the three things they need to do:
1. Contain Naz Hillmon
This is obviously easier said than done. In the first matchup, Hillmon scored 27 points and corralled eight rebounds. She only played 15 minutes in the second game because of an injury, so perhaps the ‘Cats were spared there. But Hillmon is arguably the most difficult individual matchup Northwestern has faced all season. Her size and athleticism is a challenge for Abbie Wolf to contain.
So what does Northwestern need to do? First, try to get Hillmon in foul trouble. That’s what Nebraska did yesterday, and it forced her off the floor. Second, prevent the other Michigan players from having big days. The Wildcats can’t afford to have Amy Dilk, Hailey Brown and Akienreh Johnson put up big numbers. Hillmon could put up 30, but the ‘Cats can still win if they shut down the rest of the Michigan offense.
Suffice to say this won’t be easy. But Wolf, Scheid and Shaw will need to do their best to limit Hillmon in tonight’s game.
2. Efficient Day From Pulliam
In the teams’ first game, Pulliam had 32 points on 19 shots. In the second game, she had just four points on 10 shots. Yes, Scheid and Sydney Wood picked up the slack in Ann Arbor, but Northwestern can’t count on that happening again. Pulliam needs to score and score early. The ‘Cats have won games without her productivity, but if this team wants to keep its Big Ten season alive, she needs to take over and have a huge weekend.
3. Take Care of the Basketball
This is a huge cliché, but most clichés are true. In the second game, Northwestern turned it over 19 times. Pulliam, Scheid and Veronica Burton each had four turnovers. That cannot happen again. The ‘Cats may have found a way to overcome the turnover problem last time, but that was with Hillmon playing only 15 minutes. If Hillmon plays the full game and Northwestern turns it over 19 times, the evening probably won’t end very favorably for the Big Ten regular season champions.